The Invention of Air

The Invention of Air
Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson’s intellectual biography of all-around Enlightenment Man Joseph Priestly briefly touches on the high- and lowlights of Priestly’s career without getting bogged down in the details. The approach is multidisciplinary, taking a “long zoom” look at Priestly’s ideas – scientific, religious, and political – and showing how they relate to the broader social and historical currents of various cultural ecosystems, from the fauna of the carboniferous age to the recent U.S. presidential race. In particular, Johnson is less interested in the what as in the how and the why behind the great revolutions in thought that Priestly had a knack for finding himself at the center of.